Congressional Report: Israel Arms Sales to China Concern U.S.

WASHINGTON - The United States would face an increasingly lethal Chinese army modernized by Washington's friends and allies if it had to defend Taiwan in a war with Beijing, said a U.S. study released on Tuesday.

Russia's arms exports to China are more sophisticated than ever, and Israel -- recipient of some of America's most advanced technology -- has an increasingly worrisome defense relationship with Beijing, the report said.

Moreover, if the European Union lifts its arms embargo on China as some members want, that could "dramatically enhance China's military capability," added the report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Echoing a recent Pentagon study, the commission said China's military capabilities "increasingly appear to be shaped to fit a Taiwan conflict scenario and to target U.S. air and naval forces that could become involved." China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

The commission expressed concern political attitudes across the Taiwan Strait had "hardened" and recommended the United States take a fresh look at its "one China" policy, which recognizes the mainland and Taiwan are part of one China, but leaves the meaning ambiguous.

The commission, created by the U.S. Congress in 2000, said a key to China's modernization had been "extensive" acquisitions of foreign military technologies, with Russia as the top supplier and Israel as No. 2.

Compared with the early 1990s, recent Russian arms exports showed an "alarming increase in lethality and sophistication," the report said.

As for Israel, Commission Vice Chairman Dick D'Amato told Reuters that while Washington had made "strenuous" efforts to restrain it from selling to China, "there's still not the level of cooperation and assurance that has relieved our concerns. We're very worried about this relationship."

Israel annually receives $3 billion in U.S. aid, including advanced technology. Criticism of Israel is sensitive in the United States, its leading ally.

The report said Israel in 2003 assured Washington it would not sell items to China that could harm U.S. security.

But the commission "understands that Israel has offered training facilities, including one for urban warfare, to train China's security forces for the Olympics."

In the past year, "reports indicate Israeli firms have discussed a range of projects with China, including export of sensor and observation systems, security fences, microwave and optics, training, metal detectors and packages for airport and vital facilities security," the commission said.

Israel also provided China with HARPY unmanned aerial vehicles, radar systems, optical and telecommunications equipment, drones and flight simulators.

The commission recommended the government restrict foreign defense contractors that sell sensitive military technology or weapons systems to China from participating in U.S. defense-related cooperative research.

D'Amato said that should not include Israel. Instead, the United States should deal with concerns about Israel's defense ties to China separately.

In 2000, under U.S. pressure, Israel suspended the sale to Beijing of four $250 million-a-copy advanced early warning Phalcon aircraft, similar to U.S. AWACS planes. The proposed deal alarmed the Pentagon and angered some members of Congress.